Once you start to train at a high enough level – eg lifting heavy weights in comparison to your body weight and not just ego lifting – or if you’re building up an impressive home gym setup, a crucial component is a good selection of weight plates.
Something you might have come across is a lighter plate that allows for incremental progressions. These are better known as technique plates though often labeled as incremental plates, change plates, or fractional plates. If you’ve looked into these in any detail, chances are you’ve also noticed the price!
So, why are technique plates so expensive? Technique plates are expensive because they are specialist plates and are therefore not mass manufactured. Technique plates are specifically made for beginners learning correct form for Olympic lifts or for Olympic lifters to use during a warm-up so are custom made increasing their cost price.
If you’re looking for a decent set of technique plates (mostly all technique plates are good quality) but are surprised at how expensive they are, read on. We’ll cover why they are expensive, if technique plates are worth the money and if there are any cheap technique plate alternatives.
What Are Technique Plates
A technique plate is a type of weight plate that gets attached to each end of a barbell, generally used for weightlifting, powerlifting, or bodybuilding. The difference between technique plates compared to original bumper plates is that they are made from recycled plastic, rather than rubber.
A tech plate is a predecessor to bumper plates. They were used for beginners to meet the International Weightlifting Federation height before we had the technology and engineering to make light-weight rubber plates; whether it be for a deadlift or a clean snatch.
They are full-sized weight plates typically between 17-18-inches in diameter and generally aren’t made heavier than 10kg. Their material makes them practically indestructible – durable for a few thousand drops. Although, unlike bumper plates, they are not specifically designed to be dropped.
Technique plates are generally more favored for powerlifters who are starting out, youths, or those looking to build muscle gradually. As correct posture is very important when weightlifting, technique plates are ideal for users who are still perfecting their weightlifting technique.
They get their lightweight feel from the hollow air-filled discs, which is what makes them great for practicing and building up technique before safely progressing to heavier weights. They are typically designed to suit various professional barbells, including ones used in The Olympics.
The downside of tech plates is that they do not bounce when they are dropped, which tends to make them very loud. They should only be used on gym flooring or rubber matting, otherwise, you’d be running the risk of damaging your floors when training at home or damaging the bar and plates due to a lack of shock absorption.
Why Are Technique Plates so Expensive
Technique plates are so expensive simply because you are paying for quality. They are lighter weighted than bumper plates, but meet the same diameters as normal, and are able to absorb some of the impact when they’re dropped.
Adding on from this, something that many gyms and athletes favor about the technique plate is its durability. Whilst it is the more expensive option, you will get more use out of it. Buying cheaper versions will result in a shorter lifespan of the product.
There is some variation in the price between manufacturers. For example, the Eleiko technique disks are on the higher end of the price scale, however, they are quality checked and certified as competition discs for the IWF. Slightly cheaper versions can be found from places such as Rogue or Vulcan, however, they still will not be cheap in the general sense of the word.
Technique plates can vary from $100 to $200, depending on the brand and weight. The heavier the plate, the more expensive it will be. Nonetheless, at this price, the plates are typically sold in pairs. Be sure to check if the technique plates are sold singularly or in pairs when purchasing, especially if buying online.
Due to their price, sometimes smaller sports facilities will have a limited supply of technique plates. As a replacement, they provide competition plates or lighter bumper plates. However, opting for very cheap plates will make them bendy, bad for posture, and easily breakable without proper care.
Are There Any Cheap Technique Plate Alternatives
It is possible to make DIY technique plates for a lesser cost. “Fake” technique plates can be made on a budget with a visit to any home improvement or hardware store.
By using plywood (ideally 1 inch thick), you can shape the wood into a DIY tech plate by cutting it into an 18-inch diameter, with a 2-inch hole in the center for the barbell. Some shops might even have plywood pre-cut into a circular shape.
Plywood is a very durable wood, and unlike others, can take blows regardless of the grain direction. This being said, DIY technique plates are generally better for home gyms. If you own a professional gym, investing in plastic technique plates is favorable. Although, some gyms that often frequent youths have used plywood alternatives and can create a nice, neat finish.
The most accurate way to make them mirror the original would be to have two pieces of plywood on each side, separated by a block of wood to again create the hollow center that traditional technique plates have.
If you’re not handy with DIY projects, and particularly concerned about price, the other option would be to opt for the less durable option of the bumper plates or the basic cast iron plates. Cast iron plates can be bought for as little as $1 per pound, and are found in most chain stores.
Lastly, if you want to make your weight lighter, opt for a steel bar. This will take some of the heaviness away.
Unless you are new to the gym (and in particular an Olympic weightlifting facility) or you train with Olympic-style lifts, then technique plates might not be something you’ve come across before. When looking into them for a home gym or facility though, you may be surprised to find they are noticeably more expensive per pound in weight than iron or bumper plates.
The reason technique plates are so expensive though is because they are specialty plates that are not mass manufactured. The cost to make them is higher and this cost is then passed on to the consumer.
In general, technique plates are not usually worth the cost – unless as mentioned above you’re training for Olympic weightlifting – and there are cheaper alternatives (including DIY technique plates) that will serve the same purpose at a fraction of the cost.